At least nine people were arrested after clashes in Oregon and Washington saw ‘antifa’ activists attack police officers, and far-right demonstrators and other rival groups scuffled in the streets, while a driver rolled his pickup truck towards a crowd.
The incidents occurred after the conservative group Patriot Prayer scheduled a ‘Peaceful Portland Freedom March’ in downtown Portland on Sunday afternoon.
However, concerned about counter-protesters, the group decided to relocate the demonstration to Vancouver, Washington, about 15 minutes away, at the last minute.
But counter-protesters still turned up at Portland’s plaza and waterfront park, carrying signs which read “fascists not welcome” and “fight the right.”
Most were from the coalition Portland Stands United Against Hate (PSUAH), which consists of around 80 activists groups, and the local anti-fascist organization, Rose City Antifa.
“Fascists, far right racists, and bigots are organizing across this country… we knew that we needed to come together and stand up against that racism and against fascists,” counter-protest organizer Wael Elasady told local news outlet KATU.
More than 1,000 counter-protesters turned up, according to organizers, most of whom were demonstrating peacefully.
However, it only took minutes for some Antifa activists to begin lighting smoke bombs and throwing objects at police.
Due to violence, peaceful protesters, including PSUAH marchers, should disperse immediately for their own safety.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) September 10, 2017
One person sprayed officers with a fire extinguisher, according to Willamette Week. Others fought with some of the Patriot Prayer supporters.
The situation escalated and resulted in officers in riot gear firing pepper spray at demonstrators and making arrests.
Officers arrested at least seven people, according to The Washington Post, and confiscated sticks, batons, and other weapons. Peaceful protesters were later allowed to continue their demonstrations.
Meanwhile in Vancouver, Washington – the site of the official Patriot Prayer event – counter-protesters arrived to protest the conservative group, whose critics call it a hate group aligned with white supremacists.
However, Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson and other speakers at the Vancouver rally condemned white supremacy and called for expanded free speech and protection from violence, according to the Post.
The scariest moment of the day occurred around 4pm, when a group of several dozen counter-protesters marching down the street encountered a black Chevrolet pickup truck which was honking its horn and rolling towards them.
Footage posted online showed counter-protesters shouting at the driver, who then put the car in reverse and sped backwards.
One person could be heard shouting “Get out of the road!” amid the chaos, and one person was seen dodging out of the truck’s way as it raced through an intersection.
Authorities managed to stop the driver and handcuff him, though police said he was later released without charges.
Although no one was injured in the incident, it evoked memories of the Charlottesville vehicle ramming, which saw 20-year-old James Fields plow his car into counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally last month, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Meanwhile, Gibson told his group of around 80 people not to be afraid of the counter-protesters, saying “that’s what antifa wants…that’s what the elites want,” the Oregonian reported.
Gibson’s group was joined by the right-wing group Hell Shaking Street Preachers – which regularly speaks out against the LGBT community, immigrants, and Muslims – and the Proud Boys, a right-wing nationalist group.
Police set up a barrier to separate the demonstrators from counter-protesters, some of whom were shouting “Cops and Klan hand-in-hand” and spraying Patriot Prayer supporters with silly string and glitter.
Still, several scuffles occurred nearby, according to local media, and some Patriot Prayer supporters and at least one photographer were sprayed with silly string.
A car which was carrying Proud Boys members was also stopped by police for firing pepper spray at counter-protesters, but was ultimately released, according to Willamette Week.
However, they didn’t get far, with journalists reporting that they ran into a police vehicle.
Two arrests were made in the Vancouver area for reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct, bringing the grand total of Sunday arrests to at least nine.